Insulin in the Brain: A Feedback Loop Involving Brain Insulin and Circumventricular Organs

  • M. Ian Phillips


Until fairly recently, insulin has been considered a purely peripheral hormone secreted exclusively by the beta cells of the pancreas and one which did not influence the brain. The independence of the central nervous system (CNS) from peripheral insulin has always had a certain teleological logic to it. The brain, being so important physiologically, must be preserved from having to require insulin to control its glucose metabolism. Since insulin is a 51-amino acid peptide, it does not have access to the brain because of the blood brain barrier. Thus, there were two good reasons to suppose that insulin was not involved in the glucose metabolism of the brain. In addition, glucose levels in the blood could take care of the metabolic signals for the brain’s information. However, in the past few years, several lines of evidence indicate that insulin and its receptors are present in the central nervous system. This new body of evidence has arisen at the same time as evidence for other peptides being found in the brain which were also thought to be excluded from the CNS and only available to peripheral tissues. The list of such peptides has grown as it has become clear that peptides are produced not only in the gut and pancreas, but in many other tissues including the CNS. Nevertheless, the function of these peptides in the brain is unknown and the interrelationship between the peripheral peptide levels and the central presence of the same peptides has not been satisfactorily explained.


Blood Brain Barrier Beta Cell Insulin Receptor Plasma Insulin Hippocampal Slice 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. Ian Phillips
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PhysiologyUniversity of FloridaGainesvilleUSA

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